Legislation that would establish a fourth court in Kosciusko County passed its first hurdle Wednesday.
If approved, the bill, SB 126, would create an additional superior court.
The Senate Judiciary Committee sent the bill on to the Appropriations Committee Wednesday. The vote was unanimous.
Sen. Randall Head, a Republican representing District 18, is the author.
According to information from the General Assembly website, the state would pay for the new judge’s salary and compensation.
The proposed salary for the new judge would be $144,137, but the position’s compensation package, which includes insurance, brings the total to $204,762.
The county would have to cover the cost of staff and administrative expenses.
County officials have already worked out plans on where the court will be. The justice building was designed about 19 years ago with extra space for future use when the building was renovated and expanded.
Several county officials, including Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed, attended Wednesday’s committee hearing in Indianapolis. Reed testified and brought with him several documents of support including a resolution approved by the county commissioners on Tuesday expressing a need and supporting the plan.
County Council approved a similar resolution Thursday night.
The additional court is intended to reduce caseload in local courts. Kosciusko County’s caseload per court statistics place the county among the top in the state.
Head authored similar legislation last, but the bill failed to gain much traction.
Head said he believes the bill has more momentum this year, but passage could be hampered by the fact the state funding bill will not come up until next year.
Earlier this year, the request gained the support of a legislative study committee.
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The legislation says the bill would be effective in July this year, but funding and timing of when the court begin remains unclear.
“If they took some money out of things that have already been budgeted, they could go ahead and start it in ‘18,” Head said.
Head said he’d like to see the court established as soon as possible.
He said he was unsure when the appropriations committee would consider the bill.